Imagining Hardy's Wessex and Cavaliers on a walk around the River Nadder and the villages of Dinton and Compton Chamberlayne.
In June of this year we returned to the village of Dinton for a walk to Compton Chamberlayne and part of the Nadder Valley. Compton Chamberlayne is a lovely little village and really does represent the idillic rural location. This walk is a companion walk to the Vale of Wardour walk, after parking at Dinton Park car park this time we headed south of Dinton, over the railway line and the River Nadder and on to Compton Chamberlayne before skirting Fovant Wood and returning to Dinton across the water meadows and the Park. It offers lovely scenery including views of the Fovant Badges. If you take in all of Compton Chamberlayne it is around 6.5 miles long. We seem to always do this walk in the summer when it can be a little overgrown and you do need to keep a sharp eye out for signs for the footpath as turnings can be easily missed.
Starting at Dinton Park we turned our back to the Park, crossed the road to the diagonal lane that led into the heart of the village of Dinton passing, on the way, a number of old cottages with their pretty gardens. At the junction with the main road (B3089) we turned left, stopping briefly to look at the National Trust property of Little Clarendon. Sadly, it was closed to the public but hopefully it will reopen soon and we resolved to return when it does and definitely when the Engleheart daffodils are in bloom.
From Little Clarendon we crossed the road and continued walking east along the B3089 and on past the Wyndham Arms. Towards the end of the village we turned right at a sturdy stone built and thatched roofed bus shelter and headed south along a rather overgrown footpath towards the railway line. After crossing the railway we continued on the path to Dinton Mill where we skirted around this building and crossed the River Nadder. This is a beautiful spot and we paused to look back at the lovely view of the mill and the river.
From here the path turns more into a track which seemed particularly hot in June so I suspect it has been absolutely baking during the recent heatwave. As we walked we noticed various butterflies and pyramid orchids. The track soon met a road and here we turned right towards Compton Chamberlayne. On the day of our walk we were almost immediately greeted by a cacophony of bleatings and baaings. The sheep in a nearby field were making a tremendous racket. We stopped for a moment or two wondering what the commotion was all about and then we realised that they had probably just been moved into this field and the separated ewes and lambs were calling to each other. Soon the sound dissipated as the mothers and children found each other and the field became a scene of happy reunited families. Satisfied that all was well we continued on into Compton Chamberlayne.
On reaching the village I was surprised to see that the footbridge across the road had been taken down with just the two supporting stone walls remaining in place on either side of the road. With the bridge gone we noticed that the wall on the western side of the road was covered in graffiti. As yet I have not found any information as to the date or origin of the marks although it is possible that some were made by soldiers from World War I.
As we continued into the village there was definitely the sense that time has stood still. The castellated building of Compton Park dates back to the 17th century and probably hasn’t changed much since it was the seat of the Penruddocke family. In the past the Penruddockes were important with many of the family holding high office but it is John Penruddocke (1619-1655) who is the most famous due to his instigation of a royalist uprising against Oliver Cromwell. Although the uprising had some initial successes sadly, for Penruddocke, it came to naught and he was caught and eventually executed. So we stood for a moment as we passed by the gate to to reflect on this earlier inhabitant and even imagined a caped and feather hatted cavalier mounting his horse and dashing through the opening on his way to Salisbury to round up his royalist following. In fact it is worth stopping here anyway as there is a lovely view of the secluded Norman church.
The path to the church is just to the right of the gate and before heading down to it we noticed a plaque on the wall declaring that the village was recorded in the Domesday book. I admit I wondered why I hadn’t noticed these plaques before in other places, uniquely, perhaps, the number of households in the village has changed little from Domesday times.
The church in Compton Chamberlayne dates back to the 13th century and contains the Penruddocke vault. The church is in a tranquil setting and has an impressive yew tree in the graveyard. The base of a cross remains next to the church but there is no sign of the cross itself.
On leaving the church we decided to stay a while and investigate the village, which is truly lovely and unspoilt. From the terraced homes with their iconic cottage gardens to the stone built houses with star gazing hares or jumping trout on their thatched roofs you could easily believe that you have stepped in to Thomas Hardy’s Wessex of yesteryear and maybe allow your mind a fleet of fancy and expect to bump into one of his characters walking along the road. However, at the end of the village our minds were brought back from these musings to consider more recent and sad times as we stopped at the cemetery with its war graves. We spent a moment thinking of the young men from the commonwealth who were buried so far away from home the small patches of turf that marked their graves no longer belonging to Wiltshire but some foreign land.
From the graveyard we headed back through the lovely village. This time, at the church, we turned away from the road and the village and headed west up the holloway that leads to Home Farm then onto fields and Fovant Wood. Before reaching the wood on our left the path gave us some excellent views of the Fovant Badges and the Iron Age hillfort of Chiselbury.
We continued over an open field and then along the edge of the wood taking care to find the signs for the path as we went.
On reaching a junction in the paths rather than head towards Fovant we decided that we would turn right and head down a wooded area to the road. At the road we turned left and at a sharp bend we found the path back to Dinton. This path led us back across fields and meadows.
Here again in places it was quite overgrown and signs were difficult to find but we made it back towards Mill Farm.
We crossed a number of footbridges at the farm and again admired the lovely views of the River Nadder. Before continuing on under the railway and back to Dinton Park.
I would recommend this walk and if you wished to extend it further at Mill Farm you could turn left and include the Teffonts and then return to Dinton Park via the coffin path.